When we observe or learn about a situation in a home that we have seen previously, or something that reminds us of it – either in the home itself or in the needs of the occupants as they are attempting to relate to their homes – we already have a significant head start on how to approach a solution. We can use our experience to draw upon to create or suggest solutions for the current home.
There are many apparent needs that may be similar from home-to-home, but there are two distinguishing criteria that separate each situation from each other so that each home treatment is different. First, the occupants of the home may not need a particular solution that we typically like to use due to their physical abilities, they may already have it in their home, or their home won’t accommodate it. Second, it may be outside their budget or not rank high on their list of priorities.
There are a few types of solutions or treatment areas that we like to consider and include when we can – subject to there not being other more pressing needs and the client having the funds to include it. Areas such as flooring, lighting, entrances, hardware, switches, and passageway are at the top of our list for inclusion although there are a variety of ways that such solutions can be applied.
Most homes require more lighting – especially as the occupants of them get older. Knowing this and then looking for ways to include more lighting and better, more effective fixtures is something that we can take with us from home-to-home although the specific number of light fixtures, types, locations, and styles will vary by the home and the individuals being served. We know that we want to include better lighting for safety reasons and to make the home more comfortable for the people living there. We just can’t know until we walk inside and actually see it what we will recommend or if the clients might need other areas addressed first.
We often are going to encounter homes with similar entrances that present challenges because of the number of steps that have to be climbed, the lack of a covering over the entrance, too small of a stoop or porch for them to use coming and going (and for their guests and visitors to experience as well), and a doorway that is narrower than what we like to see.
Inside, there may be relatively narrow doorways (anything under 36 inches in width actually) or a narrow hallway. Normally, we would address these areas because we know how important they are to the internal safety, comfort, convenience, and accessibility of the people living there or visiting occasionally. Nevertheless, doing so might mean a more aggressive constructive project that the owners are willing to undertake. It’s also possible that they have adapted so well to using less-than-ideal doorways and passageways to the point that other areas of the home are more pressing for a solution.
There are so many other areas of the home that we would like to look at and consider, but again – as similar as homes might be in terms of suggesting areas where we would like to begin or focus our attention – the needs of the client are going to dictate what we address first. Addressing their safety must be a top priority, but there might simply be more work required than they can undertake or agree to have done at one time.
Steve Hoffacker, CAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist-Master Instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555. Also, check out the “Aging & Accessibility” groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.